Hospital Reiki Internship

I was delighted when Reiki master Alice Risemberg applied for a space in my 100-hour Reiki internship program at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Here she generously shares the personal and professional impact of her time offering Reiki treatment to in-patients.

by Alice Risemberg

On one of the first days of my internship, I entered a hospital room to find a middle-aged gentleman sitting on the side of his bed, hunched over, his hands cradling the center of his body. He looked up when I knocked, his face frozen in a grimace, squinting his eyes to focus. [pullquote]I found a new stillness in the practice; the peace was often palpable in the sessions, filling the room. A profound tenderness welled up in me for each person I encountered…[/pullquote]I explained briefly that I was there to offer Reiki support.

As soon as I said, “Many patients say the experience is relaxing, and sometimes helps relieve pain and anxiety,” he said, “Yes! I will try anything, anything.” He could only sit (relatively) comfortably in the position he was in, twisted on the edge of the bed, so I adjusted my hand placements to accommodate him.

I started the session at the crown of his head, and watched his face release its grimace and his eyes gently close. He remained still throughout our 20-minute session. When I finished, his eyes opened wide, and he exhaled with a soft, tired smile.

As a Reiki intern, I asked each patient for pre and post Visual Analog Scores (VAS) for pain and discomfort. His score dropped from 6 to 2 on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being no pain or discomfort, and ten being the worst possible. More than that, his relief was easily visible in his body and face. I thought, in wonder and gratitude, “Yes, this is why I am a Reiki practitioner, why I am doing this internship: to help people.”

Variations on this story occurred again and again during my six-month internship, which was gratifying, and helped build my confidence and conviction. Not every session had such an obvious benefit, and not every patient was interested in Reiki treatment, but I quickly felt I was getting all that I wanted from the internship – familiarity with the hospital environment; practice talking about Reiki in a targeted, simple, brief way; much more and more varied clinical experience than I had yet had in my private practice; and an opportunity to support many different people in crisis.

Patients who were awake at the end of their sessions often made comments such as: “So relaxed, wow.” “Pain is way less.” “Peaceful.” “I don’t have any stress at all anymore.” “No more nausea.” “Dizziness better.” “Headache gone.” “Like meditation.” “Now it’s like it’ll all come out right in the end.” “Great that it kept me still for such a long time.” “Finally fell asleep!”

As the internship continued, what unfolded was different from—and much more than—what I had anticipated. My hospital sessions deepened my personal practice and exploration of my understanding of Reiki. I had always understood intellectually that we don’t “give” anything when we share Reiki treatment with others, but I began to see that I still did think that on some level.

Over time, I just showed up, deep in my personal practice (and supported by my daily self-practice), and released my expectations of outcomes and ideas of how I should act–and be. I merely allowed myself to be in the Reiki space as much as I could, and those around me to be part of that space in whatever way they wished, or didn’t wish.

The internship experience became easier, more expansive. I found a new stillness in the practice; the peace was often palpable in the sessions, filling the room. A profound tenderness welled up in me for each person I encountered – patients who were interested in Reiki, patients who weren’t, staff, visitors, anyone. It didn’t matter if they were afraid, distracted, angry, suspicious, or even taking their feelings out on me. And when at times I did find myself reacting – with fear, anger, uncertainty – it was an opportunity to practice the Reiki precepts.

Right to the end, each time I walked into another hospital room required a tiny act of courage. But the more I did it, the more trusting I was that there was nothing to worry about – because it was not about me. None of it was personal. And ultimately, nothing is about me. Nothing is personal.

By the end of my six-month, twice-weekly commitment, I was confident I could work within and adjust to any formal health care environment. That alone is valuable.

But what was invaluable was the more subtle inner evolution.

I might have gotten there any number of ways, including finding a volunteer opportunity on my own. But being an intern as part of an established program allowed me to feel like I didn’t have anything to prove, defend, or be “perfect” at right out of the gate. I went into the experience with the commitment of a professional but the open mind and heart of a student. Slipping into a structured, supervised program that was already accepted and supported in the hospital gave me tremendous freedom to deepen and grow in expected and unexpected ways, while offering real support to the patients and staff from Day One.

Several months after completing the internship, I still find myself thinking, “When I was in the hospital, I…” with private clients, colleagues, and students, and even in my self-practice. I feel far more relaxed in my practice on my own and especially with others. I may not always avoid the “giving-to-others” trap, but I now recognize it faster, and gently remind myself to let it go, all the while remembering to be compassionate with myself and others, and not take even my own thoughts personally.

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Have you been waiting for online training to help you bring Reiki into hospitals and other health care settings? Wait no more. The Introduction to Medical Reiki Webinar will give you skills and strategies to get you started in health care. Let’s get Reiki where it is needed, and raise the professionalism of our practice. Click here to learn more.

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10 thoughts on “Hospital Reiki Internship”

  1. What an insightful article! Thanks for sharing it! I also relate to Alice’s experiences, as I am also part of a volunteer program at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. It might be similar to the one described here, as Reiki practitioners (level II or Masters) volunteer 100 hours to work on hospital patients for a one year period.
    In my case, volunteering at a hospital has not only deepened my Reiki practice, but has made me understand the Reiki principles much better. After a few experiences like the ones Alice describes, I now provide Reiki with no expectations whatsoever, and I just trust Reiki to do its job. So, for those of you considering participating in internships like this one, I would totally say DO IT! Namaste

  2. I would love to know if anyone can suggest how to approach hospitals to start this type of an internship. I am a Reiki II practitioner and while I currently work on family members and animals, I would love to be doing this in a hospital/wellness center facility. I live in Phoenix, AZ so if someone knows of an opportunity like this, please share. Thanks.

  3. I am so blessed to deepen my Reiki daily on myself and my clients. I am looking for an internship in Los Angeles. I am a Reiki Master and my journey guides me deeper into into people in hospitals and cancer patients. I integret Yoga & Reiki together in my practice which is so powerful to balance my chakras/energy center. As more I practice on myself as more I am a channel for others.

  4. Alice, what a wonderful story. I currently perform Rieki in a hospital in Connecticut and have had very similar experiences. It is always a blessing and a wonderful gift to be a channel to a patient as they experience a postive changes after and during a Reiki treatment. Almost always, the pateint feels more relaxed and relief from negative energies, weather related to pain, worry, nervousness or fear. It is so uplifting to know we are a part of that relief. I know Reiki is working….

  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Alice. Having completed the same internship at Beth Israel, I find that many of your observations ring true for me — including the patient response that I heard some variation of so many times: “I’ll try anything that will help me feel better.” We go into a hospital knowing there is a need there for the benefits that Reiki can bring, but it’s surprising and gratifying to see how open people are to it, even if they have never experienced or heard of Reiki before.

  6. Thank you Alice for sharing your experience with the internship program. I related very much to your experiences and to the need to find a little courage every time you entered a new patient’s room. Working in a hospital setting has given me many opportunities to grow in my practice. In addition, approaching the patients with information on Reiki in a simple and clear way only advances our efforts in the medical community. Great article!

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